Award-winning Jewish photojournalists Stanley Forman, Stan Grossfeld and Mark Garfinkel have crossed paths many times at countless scenes, press conferences and events over the years in search of just the right shot.
Garfinkel’s and Grossfeld’s careers behind the lens are intertwined around that of Forman, who at age 75 still keeps his ear to the scanner as he works as a cameraman for WCVB-TV. His career in the news spans nearly 55 years.
Forman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photos have influenced the work of The Boston Globe’s Grossfeld, 68, who is also a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and Garfinkel, 55, an award-winning news and weather photographer working for NBC10 Boston.
Forman, who lives on the North Shore, has won three Pulitzers, including a 1979 Boston Herald American staff award for coverage of the Blizzard of 1978. More importantly, he won back-to-back spot news photography awards in 1976 and 1977.
Standing on the bed of a ladder truck with a camera with a motorized drive set for three frames a second, Forman captured the indelible image of a 2-year-old girl and her 19-year-old godmother plunging to the ground in a fire escape collapse during a fire on Marlborough Street in 1975.
The woman died, but the toddler survived, her fall cushioned by her godmother, according to an account Forman gave in a 1991 book, “Winning Pulitzers.” “Fire Escape Collapse” also triggered changes to fire-escape safety legislation in Boston and across the nation.
In the photo that resonates to this day, Forman’s “The Soiling of Old Glory” captured a white teenager pointing an American flag toward a black lawyer named Ted Landsmark on Boston City Hall Plaza during an anti-busing demonstration in April 1976.
“I guess that you could say Stan, Stan and me are landsmen,” said Garfinkel, a Swampscott native, using the Yiddish term that is pronounced “lantsmen” for Jews who come from the same community, even though the three did not come from the same town.
Recently, the three photographers were interviewed about their work, and discussed how they have adjusted to shooting in the time of COVID-19, and what their Jewish identity means to them as they seek out their next shot.
In addition to his photography, Forman is known for his uncanny ability to seemingly get to know and befriend everyone, from firefighters to police officers, to those just standing around a scene. It’s also indicative of an encyclopedic memory in which he can recall minute details of photos he took decades earlier.
“I do remember a lot of stuff,” Forman said, though it’s not always the best of traits. “You know, Stanley, I think you remember too much,” a news director once told him.
By 1983, Forman saw the handwriting on the wall as a newspaper photographer. He said the paper’s general manager told him: “Start looking.” Concerned the newspaper might close or be sold, and he would be out of a job, Forman took a job as a cameraman for WCVB-TV, where he has been ever since.
Forman shoots plenty of video, but he likes to grab still frames and share them on Facebook and Twitter.
“There’s nothing like a still photo,” Forman said.
Due to the fact that he’s 75, which puts him in a high-risk category for complications from COVID-19, Forman says he has not done that much shooting around the pandemic.
“And what I’m really scared of now is I really do think we are all, most of us, are letting down our guard a little bit,” Forman said.
He’s not getting up close and personal like he used to.
“Channel 5 has been very protective of us,” Forman said. He works by himself chasing news. He likens himself to a news helicopter. “I do news from a distance,” he said.
He has photographed some “great parades” during the pandemic, including one at Salem Hospital.
“I’ve done some really good, brings-tears-to-your-eye parades, thank-yous. It’s just been fabulous, fabulous stuff I get to cover. The good stuff.”
Forman grew up on Franklin Avenue in Revere. His father, Dave (this reporter’s father’s cousin), was a bandleader.
“I never made it in music,” Forman said. “I tried a couple of things. I tried clarinet. You know, there is always a piano in the house. My music is my scanners.”
When he was 8, in 1953, his father discovered he could hear the Revere police frequency at the end of the AM radio dial. Stan Forman enjoyed listening in and chasing sirens.
“I like to call myself a frustrated fireman and policeman, I got to do both,” Forman said.
In reflecting on his two Pulitzer-prize winning photos, Forman said “the flag” will be the one that is most recalled.
“The fire escape was just a tremendous spot news picture,” Forman said. But there has been little demand for it for its re-publication, he said, though it made TIME’s list of “the 100 most influential photos ever taken.”
The flag photo will stand the test of time “and not in a good way,” he said.
When asked if the photo resonates today, given renewed interest in calls for social justice with the Black Lives Matter movement, Forman said because he is a working journalist, he does not want to get into the politics.
“Because of what is going on, the picture has been resurrected again,” he said. He’s getting calls from different shows asking to use it.
“The picture will never go away,” Forman said. “The question is, will what it represents go away?”
Forman has two grown children with his wife, Debbie: Hannah Forman, who works as an emergency room nurse, and Molly Andruszkiewicz, who works as a physical therapist.
“Debbie and I have someone to get us out of bed when we get older, and someone to give us our meds,” Forman joked.
As for his Jewish identity, Forman likes to think it helped him get his start in the news business. He had been the campaign photographer for former Massachusetts Attorney General Edward Brooke during his successful run for the U.S. Senate. At the end of the campaign he got interviews at the Boston Record American, The Herald and the Globe.
“The Record American was the smart one, they hired me,” Forman said.
Forman said the chief photographer and managing editor who hired him were both Jewish.
Grossfeld, a native of New York City, works as an associate editor for The Boston Globe and shoots mostly sports, nowadays.
“I grew up in the Bronx but I stopped being a Yankee fan when Steinbrenner fired Yogi,” said Grossfeld, about the time in 1985 the legendary Yankees owner George Steinbrenner fired the just as legendary Yankees manager Yogi Berra.
And that’s a good thing, because Grossfeld is responsible for one of the most iconic images ever captured for Red Sox Nation: A photo of Boston police officer Steve Horgan, with his hands in the air as Detroit Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, legs in the air, flipped into the bullpen chasing a David Ortiz grand slam during the American League Championship Series in 2013.
Grossfeld won two Pulitzer prizes in the 1980s, one in 1984 for his coverage of the impact of the war on Lebanese citizens, and the other for a series of photos of victims of the famine in Ethiopia and pictures of undocumented immigrants along the U.S/Mexico border in 1985.
Grossfeld said when he first came to Boston, Forman had just won the Pulitzer for “Fire Escape Collapse.”
“I remember I was working at my first job at the Newark Star Ledger, and I was saying these are the greatest spot news photos ever,” Grossfeld said.
Eager to prove himself at the Globe, Grossfeld wound up at an accident scene one day on the old Expressway. To get a high-angle shot, he climbed a street lamp which proved slippery and hard to grip.
“All of a sudden, I felt someone giving me a boost, and I turned around and it was the great Stanley Forman,” Grossfeld said.
“He tells me that story when I see him,” Forman said. “We worked side-by-side many times. Probably one of Boston’s best. He also writes a great story to go with his images, now. He was always a notch above us all with his vision.”
The pandemic has changed the way Grossfeld shoots, which includes having to wear masks and trying to stay six feet apart from others. He uses a telephoto lens now more than ever. “Let the lens do the walking,” he said.
It can be dangerous work, Grossfeld said, and photographers don’t have any special immunity to COVID-19.
At the height of the pandemic in the spring, Grossfeld recalled setting up in a parking garage at Massachusetts General Hospital and using a long lens to get shots of about a dozen ambulances as patients were being taken into the hospital.
Grossfeld also recalled going to a nursing home in Quincy at the height of the pandemic where Massachusetts National Guard were deployed to assist with testing.
“I found out that they were bringing in these Hazmat National Guardspeople, and I went there and the director said: ‘I’m not going to kick you out, I’m not going to interfere with you.’ ”
Grossfeld got shots of personnel decontaminating themselves, all while trying to keep at a safe distance. Grossfeld said when he went back to his car, he sprayed himself with Lysol. At home, he took off most of his clothes before he went inside.
“I was concerned for my family: You don’t want to bring something home,” Grossfeld said.
But there are other things he has shot, too, during the pandemic, pictures showing the joys of summer or ones that show you could still go to the beach.
“You can’t just go COVID, COVID, COVID,” he said.
As for his Jewish identity, Grossfeld shared a story about his struggle to learn his haftorah for his bar mitzvah. His rabbi suggested he bring him a reel-to-reel tape, and he would chant the passage and Grossfeld could learn it from that, which he did.
“Unfortunately, I am a procrastinator and didn’t listen to it until the night before,” Grossfeld said in an email. “When I switched it on there was the rabbi singing ‘Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheynu’ mixed in with the Beatles singing “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl.” His tape recorder only recorded over half my Beatles ‘Hard Day’s Night’ tape. I became a man one day early because I was scared to death that I’d never learn it in time. Actually, the Hebrew – with a slight Liverpool beat – came out OK.”
Grossfeld said he has a strong Jewish identity, “but it’s not so formalized.”
“I fast on Yom Kippur. We’ve had a Seder that we’ve had with our Jewish friends for 20 years. I abhor the scary increase in anti-Semitism that is going on now and I think it’s a tragedy that these old stigmatisms and inaccurate stereotypes are being taught to a new generation … It’s really growing now, and hate is taught.”
Grossfeld, who is 68, married and has two grown children, added: “In this time, I just try to be a nicer human being.”
Mark Garfinkel now works as a photographer for NBC10 Boston, where his feature photos of airliners streaking across the moon, sunrises and sunsets, lightning across the Boston skyline, and his spot news photos of crashes, fires and various incidents continue to captivate.
Garfinkel was part of a team of seven that won a New England Emmy for a historical special called “D-Day 75: New England’s Heroes.” He has also won awards from the Boston Press Photographers Association and the National Press Photographers Association.
Garfinkel grew up in Swampscott where his family was active at the former Temple Beth El, now Congregation Shirat Hayam, on Atlantic Avenue, where his bar mitzvah was held and his mother, Marion, is still an active participant.
He said his Jewish identity means more to him now than it did back when he was looking to find a way to get out of Hebrew school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A 1983 graduate of Swampscott High, Garfinkel attended Salem State for a few years, but he did not graduate.
In 1987, he was living at home and had done some photography, and he recalled there was a fire on Walker Road in town. The son of the fire chief at the time saw him outside and told him there was a fire up the street. He asked him if he was still taking pictures. He drove Garfinkel home to get his camera.
“I sold the picture to The Salem News and I caught the bug,” said Garfinkel. “I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I got paid.”
He installed a darkroom in the cellar of the family home, and his late father, Robert Garfinkel, who died in 2014, would get up at 2 a.m. and see the wet prints drying before Garfinkel would drive them over to the Daily Item in Lynn.
Early in his career, Garfinkel freelanced at The Salem News and The Jewish Journal, and he shot spot news for The Boston Globe, but he mostly shot for the Daily Item until he got a job at The Boston Herald in 1993, where he worked for 25 years.
While freelancing for The Salem News, Garfinkel worked with then-photo editor Barbara Kennedy, the wife of Northeastern University Journalism Professor and media critic Dan Kennedy.
“Mark has spoken about the ethics of photojournalism to my students on several occasions,” Dan Kennedy said in an email, “and they always appreciate his perspective on how to get the story while maintaining your sense of humanity.”
Two years ago, on Oct. 4, Garfinkel was let go from the Herald for what Garfinkel called “cost-cutting measures.”
The irony of the date was not lost on the police officers and firefighters he covered, because in radio parlance, 10-4 means “OK,” and Garfinkel’s bread and butter was shooting police and fire scenes.
A couple of weeks later, Garfinkel got a call from NBC10 Boston, which wanted him for his still photography. His pictures and video are featured during the weather broadcast and on social media.
Garfinkel said part of his fascination with the weather and planes comes from growing up in a close knit family in Swampscott where he would watch the jets fly overhead on King’s Beach on summer evenings.
Today, the 55-year-old photojournalist lives with his wife, Globe reporter Laura Crimaldi, and their 3-year-old son in Winthrop Highlands. The location provides a vantage from which to shoot planes passing by the moon, colorful sunsets and lightning. He said he is also probably the only person on the North Shore training an 800mm lens into the night sky.
Garfinkel uses flight tracker apps along with his experience of knowing where the moon will be relative to a jetliner’s flight path to help him gauge whether a plane 250 miles out might pass in front of the moon.
Garfinkel said as a young photographer, he knew about the historical importance and institutional memory of Forman’s pictures.
“Then I met Stan,” Garfinkel said of Forman. “He’s a walking, living legend every day, and he’s very humble.”
Associate Editor Ethan Forman can be reached by email at email@example.com.